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Duke was ready in no time, dressed to kill in his navy blue suit and cream shirt and a white striped red bowtie. Mary had taken her time to iron the clothes properly. She even applied powder to his nose and brushed his eyebrows. All that touching put him on edge, but he endured it because he wanted to dress up for daddy. When they were don, Mary called for his breakfast and helped him eat just enough so that he would be able to save space for the food and iced cream that he would want to have. When all was ready; he stood in front of the mirror and checked himself out.

“I look really nice Mary”
He said. Turning around and acting like a sort of model. She laughed lightly and pulled his nose gently.

“Yes you do… yes you do”
She looked at him and remembered one child she had known. One child a long time ago. He had been like him too, he didn’t know quite as much a duke knew, nor did he have the special issues that duke had, he was just a boy. Just a boy.

It was late in the evening. The whole community had been warned by the priest of an impending danger. A spirit would possess a person and when the people saw this person, they would know. This was the third of such prophecies in four years and Mary knew what it meant. Someone was about to be made a victim. Someone was about to face the wrath of the gods. The stream had decided to flow red today and Mary wondered whose turn it was to feed it.
That evening, the streets were deserted. Everyone stayed in their houses; the trees that used to boast of a lot of children playing under them were all alone and looked strangely bare and naked. The playgrounds looked striped and the little village itself seemed to have had life snuffed out of it. Sometime around 7pm, the town got shocked by the cries of Dugo, Mary’s step mother. She was in the middle of the courtyard, screaming at the top of her voice and jumping into the air with surprising agility for a woman of her size, she would then slam herself on the floor. Her wrapper came off and her breasts flapped around in the wake of the perilous rampage of emotions that ravaged her body. She was doing all this about one foot away from the body of a small boy of about five. He lay on the ground, naked too. A small mound of child feces was a few inches from his body. His throat was slit from ear to ear and he seemed like he had been drained of all blood. He was her first son. She had had three girls successively before him and had had to go and pray specially to get him. She had carried three sacrifices and had spent a lot of naira on cockerels and male cats.
Now he was dead, the meat of the deity. The river had taken its choice.

Dugo wept like no tomorrow, she would not be consoled.

“Hei!” she continued to scream

“Why me!!! What did I ever do wrong?”
She wept nonstop.

Before long, people had gathered around her and they all had a word to say.
“Sorry nno, the river has claimed her price”
“Ewwuuuuu, stop crying, you will have more sons. At least we now know that it’s not your loins that are incapable of producing sons."

“ it’s okay dugo, calm down , e don do… last twenty years it was my sister… ill never forget” another volunteered.

They had all tried to console her, but dugo would not be consoled. It was not in the habit of the river to take small children. Usually, it was adults that the river took and people always had one thing or the other to claim they knew about the victim that was bad, or evil. Now that the river was taking children, everyone knew that they should not allow their children out on the nights of the deity.

Mary was there, she watched as the people cried and sympathized with Dugo. She watched as the men took the boy’s body and went to bury him; she would not dare tell anyone what else she had seen. She would not dare. Her eyes had seen evil and she had feared for a very long time afterwards that she would die too.

Duke was done checking himself out in the mirror, he looked fab and he knew it. So he stepped out of the room with Mary, he was going to get iced cream with his dad. In the sitting room, his dad too had just finished breakfast.

“Oh… you’re ready?” his dad said as he looked him up and down appreciatively.
“Yes daddy” he answered. He said.

“Did Mary dress you?” his dad asked, looking at the outfit. He tried to remember when he had bought it for him but he count. No one had ever been able to dress duke like this before. This would have required a lot of touching and duke never let anyone touch him that much. Duke obviously really like the new girl, he smiled. Talking of which, he looked at Mary and asked.

“Is that what you are wearing?” 
he asked. Looking at the rather ugly dress that she had on.

“Oga, she I dey go with you Ni?”

Mary asked, surprised and uncomfortable. She remembered vividly the last time she had went out to get iced cream with an oga.
“Of course Mary… I don’t think I can handle this little man alone. Please go and get dressed.”
The tables had just taken a different one from the one she had been anticipating. She really didn’t think that going out with them was a good idea. But who was she to argue? She went upstairs and rushed through a bath and dressed up as quickly as she could. She picked the best dress she had, it was a tiny little bit shorter than she thought it was, but at least it covered her knees. She rushed through the white powder ritual and rushed back into the sitting room, trying as much as possible not to keep her oga waiting.

The minute he saw her, father and son burst into laughter. She stood there; looking at them, unsure what it was that was so funny. The first to recover was the father who pointed to her face and tried to say something but ended up bursting into laughter again. She was now thoroughly confused as she waited for him to stop laughing and tell her what he obviously thought was so funny about her face. Then he said, admits giggles.

"Did you check yourself in the mirror before coming?” she looked at him, realizing that he was right. She didn’t.

“No sir”

Well, please go and check.” He said with more giggles. She ran back upstairs and checked herself in the mirror. What she saw actually made her laugh too. Her face had been wet when she used the white powder; the powder had then formed a cake of sorts on her face, making her look like a ghost. The dress she had on was black, it contrasted sharply with the color of her face and she looked like a mourning ghost of sorts. She had to wash her face with soap and water to get it off. Then she ignored the attempt at makeup and rushed back downstairs.

They set out for their day out minutes later. Duke was in the front seat, fully belted and Mary was in the back seat, wondering where all that cold was coming from

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